The Semester at Sea experience is an excellent opportunity to interrogate the concept of borders and its intriguing antithesis, no borders. Reading Without Borders is about the lines that separate us. It examines the literature of otherness, us v. them, the demarcations that divide societies and nations. Our readings present the plurality of America and the world. American writers situate themselves outside America and examine what it means to be American through the eyes of the other, and international writers present their perception of similar dual identities. The writers represent a wide social scale: from an established American writer, to a Polish immigrant, to an Egyptian-American feminist. All our writers situate themselves outside their comfort zones; by personal displacement they help us to move “outside the border,” and to gain new perspectives about history, as well as individual and national identities. Thus, the challenge to be “outside the border” is both personal and political and also individual and communal. The books will demand reevaluating history, individual and national identities, and, in fact, any defined sociopolitical labels. Readings in general follow the SAS voyage in order to help students experience the unfamiliar, the other, with a better understanding—and to a certain extent—bravely and fearlessly.
Field WorkCountry: Vietnam
Date: February 13, 2018
The main thread of this class is to position ourselves outside familiarity and learn about others and learn about ourselves through them. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried presents one of the most powerful and at the same time intimate settings unfamiliar (although sounding familiar) to us—Vietnam vs. America during the Vietnam War (for Americans) and the American War (for Vietnamese).
On Feb 13, we will visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and War Remnants Museum to witness a piece of history about the Vietnam War and experience their perspective, their experience as opposed to our perspective about the War that occurred in their land. Perhaps this visit will help us understand others, and, by extensions, ourselves. As O’Brien indicates, we were all victims of the war. It is not them we fight against, but it is war, or any ideology or institutional differences, that divides us.
1. To witness and experience a piece of history of the Vietnam War
2. To understand O’Brien’s book better
3. To experience being within and outside borders at the same time—learning about others and ourselves